Government Weighs Congestion Tax Aimed at Tel Aviv Drivers

Plan would bring charge of NIS 25-50 to enter the city, would cost an estimated 277 million lost work hours annually.

The city of Tel Aviv and the Transportation Ministry are reportedly planning to institute a congestion tax for Tel Aviv.

The plan would go into effect at the end of 2009 and would mean a charge of anywhere from NIS 25 to 50 a day for any car entering the city, according to statements made by Transportation Ministry Director General Gidon Siterman during a Knesset environmental committee hearing on Wednesday.

The tax would mean a monthly cost of anywhere between NIS 500 to 1000 for someone who enters the city every work day.

According to the plan, the fee would be adjusted based on the hour of the day, area of the city, and the level of exhaust emitted by the car.

Siterman stated that the first stages of the plan will only include a 2 square kilometer area centered around Allenby Street and will then be extended in later stages.

An inter-agency steering committee headed by Siterman is examining three different potential geographic areas that could fall under the plan and which different public projects the taxes raised could be funneled to.

Siterman said the plan was devised as a means of dealing with the high-level of congestion in the city and to encourage greater use of public transportation. The plan is also meant to fight air and noise pollution in the city.

Head of the Knesset Interior Committee MK Ophir Pines-Paz (Labor) slammed the initiative, calling it a "hidden form of discrimination" in that not every one will be able to afford the fee.

MK Dov Khenin (Hadash) stated that the plan would only be feasible if the public was offered cleaner and more reliable forms of public transportation.

A study carried out by the Transportation Ministry determined that the plan would lead to a loss of 277 million work hours per year in the Tel Aviv metropolitan area, costing the city an estimated NIS 5.5 billion per year.

The study also surveyed Tel Aviv residents and found a majority that said they are in favor of the plan.